Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Dembele and I have a most satisfying working relationship. I tell him to copy what I do (see a few entries below) and he always misunderstands in the most elegant way possible, creating a fusion of his African patterns and mine. But perhaps there is no misunderstanding , perhaps he knows very well that he is changing the pattern? He always has a glint in his eyes. We have never discussed it... Posted by Picasa
Entrance Gate 6. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 30, 2006

Entrance gate 5.
Seen from the interior of the site. Posted by Picasa
My friend Moise works at the French Embassy in Bamako. Moise likes small things. Here he is with his Bonsai Baobab tree and his baby daughter Iris.
More up-to-date pictures of the gate to follow this afternoon! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Entrance Gate 4. Posted by Picasa
Entrance Gate 2. Posted by Picasa
Entrance Gate 1.
Showing the newly built kitchens to the right, and the half built circular reception straight ahead. Posted by Picasa
Baba the master mason is responsible for the great gate which is being built this week at hotel Djenné Djenno. I complimented him on the superior shape of his hat. He immediately removed it and tried to offer it to me as a present, but I declined politely. The next morning he brought me a new one- less lived-in, less pungent but definitely less shapely too. Posted by Picasa
My ultra-cool mud architect Boucoum has now moved on to paper to put the finishing touches on his design for the entrance gate to hotel Djenné Djenno. (See first sketch a few entries ago below) The Masons are already working on what promises to be a prime example of a Sudano-Sahelian Great gate; in fact until it crumbled and fell recently the gate to the city of Djenné was just like this one will be. I will be posting a blow-by-blow pictorial account of the erection of this gate, starting now! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Today the bogolan textile production started in earnest for all the fabric needed at hotel Djenné Djenno. I am painting with a toothbrush, using Niger river mud on a cotton fabric I have dyed with the leaves of a special tree. These leaves are also used in traditional medicine because they possess a natural antibiotic.
I hope to run week long courses for people who would like to try this lovely form of textile painting and dyeing: perhaps even starting this spring. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 23, 2006

Yesterday was the end of the Ramadan month of fasting, and big celebration time.The first sign that something was different was when Juna, the little mendiant arrived to pick up the left overs at breakfast time. He had been given a bath and a new outfit by his marabout! I was very surprised, and very pleased. Once a year is hardly enough though...(see July 10 entry about the mendiants of Djenné). Posted by Picasa
Soon the courtyard erupted into great hilarity, the ghettoblaster appeared and we all danced to Bob Marley (much loved here) and Salif Keita. Posted by Picasa
But some of the celebrations involved getting dressed up in one's Sunday best and walking about town, popping in to greet everyone, who were also dressed up to the nines.Here I am with my friend Boubakar the weaver. Posted by Picasa
Today was the 'boxing day' of the end Ramadan feast, as it were. Things are returning to normal, and I even managed to get some work out of Boucoum, the architect. Here he is, exercising traditional working methods, designing the entrance gate of Hotel Djenné Djenno. The work on this edifice will start tomorrow morning! Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Oh, dear. I have had harsh words with Ibrahim the gardener, normally my ally and source of horticultural wisdom, since I know absolutely nothing about gardening. What I do know however, is that I don't want my pawpaws and banana trees planted in rows, but I want to make a little forest with the trees tout en dèsordre. Ibrahim doesn't think much of this romantic aesthetic. Nevertheless I decided to pull rank and marked out exactly where I wanted the trees. The next day when I arrived Ibrahim had completely ignored my instructions and planted the pawpaws in a neat row!
I fumed quietly for some time, whilst trying to hold on to my architect Boucoum's advice: calme-toi Sophie, c'est l'Afrique. Then I decided not to have him dig up what he had planted but instead to get some more pawpaws and simply have him plant those too but exactly where I want them, in my presence, in between his rows, thus ruining his scheme. Am I being a dreadful and cruel memsahibPosted by Picasa
Ibrahim choosing pawpaw seedlings. Posted by Picasa
The millet is high and soon ready for harvesting: the Niger inland delta
is green and Mopti surrounded by inundated rice fields- the Bani is swollen and wide as a lake, where in May it was reduced to a trickle. But soon this abundance will make way for the dusty ochre and terracotta which is the normal palette of the Sahel. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Back in Djenné much had happened. Everyone had worked really hard and the doors and windows were in, the kitchens were nearly finished and the bar and restaurant only left to do! AND we are within budget even though timing is going to be tight, since the OPENING DATE IS DECIDED FOR THE 20th DECEMBER!!!! Posted by Picasa
Djenné has once more become an island: the water is higher than in many years at the end of this rainy season. Pirogues are plying the water which separates my land and the city, which gives a lovely frame to the mosque, seen here in the distance from the hotel site. Posted by Picasa
my little plantation had begun to take root in my absence Posted by Picasa
and my architect Boucoum proudly showed me my pretty new cess pits... Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 09, 2006

Feel like a helium balloon, still attached by a fine thread to Ladbroke Grove, tomorrow the thread is cut and Africa begins... Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 06, 2006

Posted by Picasa Sitting in my flat for nearly the last time. A nice German estate agent girl with her solicitor boyfriend will soon move in.
Spent the afternoon packing a HUGE new suitcase with clothes doubling up as security wrapping around yet another 44 solar powered 'Charlie Dimmock elegant garden lights' from Woolworths in Portobello Road. (see last July entries) Sorry to go on about these lights, but they were now down to an incredible £9.99 reduced from £59.99! I mean, how could I possibly NOT buy up the whole lot??? At least the Djenne Djenno gardens will be twinkling away in an ecologically impeccable manner, although it won't be possible to run the rest of the place on solar power, alas..

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Yes, as I was saying... there are some practical and even philosophical problems regarding my website for Hotel Djenne Djenno. I need some pictures when I talk about the restaurant, for instance. But since it is still just a mudbath, how do I convey an idea of a chic restaurant?
If I show the picture above- as a symbolic representation, will people understand or will they think that they have to eat their soup with ladles made from old cars?? Hmmm...an arrogant part of me says that if they don't get it, I don't want them at my hotel anyway. But clearly that's no way to be a nice hoteliere, is it? Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

I am working on my website for Hotel Djenne Djenno- it has to be done before I leave for Mali next Tuesday! The problem is- I have only pictures of a construction site: so I have to try and give an approximation of what the rooms will be like.. I know it will be beautiful, but how do I convince people? The hotel will be open at Christmas- will this do for a room impression? The walls are mud- the textiles are Bogolan- the wooden rafters are un covered- there will of course be a fan or air-conditioning too, and each room has its own en-suite bathroom.
 Posted by Picasa